Transient RFI environment of LOFAR-LBA at 72- 75 MHz: Impact on ultra-widefield AARTFAAC Cosmic Explorer observations of the redshifted 21-cm signal

B. K. Gehlot, L. V.E. Koopmans, S. A. Brackenhoff, E. Ceccotti, S. Ghosh, C. Höfer, F. G. Mertens, M. Mevius, S. Munshi, A. R. Offringa, V. N. Pandey, A. Rowlinson, A. Shulevski, R. A.M.J. Wijers, S. Yatawatta, S. Zaroubi

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Abstract

Context. Measurement of the highly redshifted and faint 21-cm signal of neutral hydrogen from the Cosmic Dawn and Epoch of Reionisation promises to unveil a wealth of information about the astrophysical processes that governed the structure formation and evolution of the universe during the first billion years of its evolution. Aims. The AARTFAAC Cosmic Explorer (ACE) program utilises the AARTFAAC wide-field imager of LOFAR to measure the power spectrum of the intensity fluctuations of the redshifted 21-cm signal from the Cosmic Dawn at z ∼ 18 corresponding to the global 21-cm absorption feature reported by the EDGES experiment. Radio frequency interference (RFI) from various sources, such as aeroplane communication, contaminates the observed data and it is crucial to exclude the RFI-affected data in the analysis for any reliable detection. In this work, we solely focus on investigating the impact of non-ground-based transient RFI on the analysis of ACE observations. Methods. We use cross-power spectra and cross-coherence metrics to assess the correlation of RFI over time and investigate the level of impact of transient RFI on the 21-cm signal power spectrum estimation. Results. We detected moving sky-based transient RFI sources that cross the field of view within a few minutes and appear to be mainly from aeroplane communication beacons at the location of the LOFAR core in the 72-75 MHz band (a part of the EDGES absorption trough), by inspecting filtered images. We find that this transient RFI is mostly uncorrelated over time and is only expected to dominate over the thermal noise for an extremely deep integration time of 3000 h or more with a hypothetical instrument that is sky temperature dominated at 75 MHz. We find no visible correlation over different k-modes in Fourier space in the presence of noise for realistic thermal noise scenarios. Conclusions. We conclude that the sky-based transient RFI from aeroplanes, satellites and meteorites at present does not pose a significant concern for the ACE analyses at the current level of sensitivity and after integrating over the available ∼500 h of observed data. However, it is crucial to mitigate or filter such transient RFI for more sensitive experiments aiming for significantly deeper integration.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA71
Number of pages13
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
Volume681
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1-Jan-2024

Keywords

  • Dark ages, reionization
  • First stars
  • Methods: observational
  • Methods: statistical
  • Techniques: interferometric

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